Archive for the ‘Distribution & Screenings’ Category

Caffeine, Sequels, and Remakes…

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

When I realized that caffeine could be attributed to at least a few of the several headaches I get on a monthly basis, I gave it up. I’ve been off caffeine for over 15 years now. In addition to it helping with the headaches, I learned early on in the process how good it felt to just deny something to yourself. To echo one of the legends of self-reliance, denial helps one live deliberately.

It’s been so long since I had a caffeinated beverage that I take it for granted now, but I was thinking about it today when reading Matthew Jeppsen’s post at FresHDV in which he quotes a recent interview with Ridley Scott.

Scott says:

I think movies are getting dumber, actually. Where it used to be 50/50, now it’s 3% good, 97% stupid. [The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford] is one of those rarities that does get made, thank God, and has serious characterisation and serious things to say. Altogether it’s a wonderful, dramatic and historic piece. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to get films like this made.

I’ve sometimes found Ridley Scott’s work to be an example of (admittedly great) style over substance, but am I ever in agreement here.

In an effort to quantify the dumbness, what follows is a list of the top 20 grossing movies of 2007 to-date, in order. Films in bold are not sequels or based on previously existing franchises (i.e., a comic book or television series).

Spider-Man 3 – sequel (#3) / comic book franchise
Shrek the Third – sequel (#3)
Transformers – based on TV show
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – sequel (#3)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – sequel / book franchise
The Bourne Ultimatum – sequel (#3) / based on book franchise
300
Ratatouille
The Simpsons Movie – based on 17 year-old TV series
Wild Hogs
Knocked Up
Live Free or Die Hard – sequel (#4)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – sequel (#2) / based on comic book franchise
Rush Hour 3 – sequel (#3)
Blades of Glory
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Ocean’s Thirteen – second sequel to a remake
Ghost Rider – debatable: based on comic book franchise….
Hairspray – based on broadway show, which was based on movie
Superbad

Out of 20 films, seven or eight are “original”, if you can call Wild Hogs and Blades of Glory “original.” [Addendum: Adaptations of non-franchise literature, etc. count as original works. See discussion in comments below.]

If that doesn’t get you down, look at the all-time top grossing movies in the USA, where you’ll see that 13 of the 20 were released in the last seven years. Of those 13, two (The Passion of the Christ and Finding Nemo) aren’t sequels, remakes, or based on pre-existing franchises.

Shutting myself in a dark room isn’t going to make the headache that is this list of movies go away, but I am going to give up watching any new sequels and remakes. Even if some of these movies are ok, I’m sick of the practice in general principle. Why encourage Hollywood to do it any longer? Like caffeine, I’m going cold turkey, giving this stuff up in toto.

Sure, I might miss something like Cronenberg’s The Fly or Sirk’s Imitation of Life (two of my favorite remakes), but something tells me the withdrawal period will last shorter than when I gave up caffeine.

UPDATE 9/23/07: Alert reader AJ Broadbent has sent word of even more dissenting opinions. Click here for the full story!!

Frownland

Monday, September 10th, 2007

In March I caught the premiere of Ronald Bronstein’s Frownland at SXSW. Soon after seeing it, I wrote:

Frownland is clearly designed as an audience endurance test, a kind of cinematic middle-finger. Though not enjoyable in any conventional sense, it’s an unusual and original film that succeeds on its own uncompromising terms. Recommended viewing for brave lovers of cult films; others will probably want to skip it.

I would only slightly modify this statement to say, as we enter month nine of 2007, that Frownland ranks as one of my favorite films of the year. I was reminded of this by reading David Lowery’s Filmmaker Magazine interview with Bronstein, which has just been posted online.

Not everyone shares David’s or my admiration for the movie. Here’s an interview highlight from Bronstein that illustrates what a polarizing movie this is:

[A] fight nearly broke out after this one screening in Las Vegas. Some guy in the back of the theatre was booing throughout the closing credits. When they ended, this other guy stood up, turned to face the booer, and screamed, “You! You’re a fucking asshole!” I mean he really screamed. He was absolutely enraged. Red as a beet. Shaking. That’s when a third guy stood up and started defending the booer. The second guy turned on the third. Everyone was arguing. It was sort of a melee. Turns out that last guy was the attending critic for Variety and he wound up writing us a killer review.

Click here to read the whole thing.

DVD Round-up: August 28, 2007

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

This edition of DVD round-up features five very different DIY features.

Stranger Than Paradise / Permanent Vacation
Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) is generally considered one of the key films of the American independent film movement of the 1980s, occupying the same rarefied historical space as The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980) and She’s Gotta Have It (1986). Unlike those films, however, this was not Jarmusch’s debut (though it is often erroneously attributed as such). That film, Permanent Vacation, is finally being released on DVD in this deluxe Criterion Collection release.

Inland Empire
David Lynch abandoned studio filmmaking to write, shoot, direct, and edit a three-hour DIY feature with a Sony PD-150. The plot? Lynch’s tagline says it concerns “a woman in trouble.” Let’s leave it at that. To promote the movie, which he self-distributed (in partnership with 518 Media and Rhino), Lynch sat out on a street corner in Hollywood with star Laura Dern and a Cow. No word on whether footage of this is included on this 2-disc edition.

Four Eyed Monsters
Arin Crumly & Susan Buice’s Four Eyed Monsters has gained as much, if not more, attention for the filmmakers’ promotional efforts and DIY theatrical distribution campaign as it has for the film itself. I finally caught up with it after its release on DVD a few weeks ago. Buice and Crumly have produced a work that is impressive for its inventive marriage of cinematography and digital effects — it feels at once hand-made and digital. Story-wise, I was less interested — for me Buice and Crumly fall prey to indulging in the very narcissistic tendencies that they criticize in so many other self-obsessed couples. See for yourself, though. MySpacers identify with it, which makes me wonder if I’m just too old to fully appreciate it. Available from B-Side or via the filmmakers themselves.

LOL
What a difference a year and a half makes. In April 06 I was interviewing Joe Swanberg, Kevin Bewersdorf, and Chris Wells about LOL, which I had just seen at the Philadelphia Film Festival. At the end of the evening, Joe handed me a self-burned, Sharpie-labeled copy of the DVD. Now, sixteen months later, I hold in my hands a deluxe DVD release of LOL, the first from the new DVD label Benten Films. It’s a beautifully put together release — lots of special features and my favorite DVD cover image of the year. I’ve avoided writing much lately about Joe Swanberg and the other filmmakers featured in IFC Center’s New Talkies series. I think Anthony Kaufman has a point when he writes that much hype could hurt movies intimate and small-scale as, say, LOL. (Indeed, hype can kill our ability to appreciate any movie or any other work of art.) Still, this is a quality release worth mentioning and, good as it is, it suggests even bigger and better things to come from both Swanberg and the Benten Films label.

DENTLER TAKES THE STAIRS: Kevin Bewersdorf Interview

Friday, August 17th, 2007

In anticipation of the release of Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs, South by Southwest Producer Matt Dentler interviewed the film’s major contributors then asked several film bloggers (myself included) if they would be interested in posting one of the interviews online. I warmly reviewed Hannah back in March, immediately after its premiere at SXSW, so I happily agreed.

I find it impressive to see a festival director support the work he programs well beyond the festival itself. Dentler’s vision has made SXSW one of the finest film festivals in America and his support of truly independent fare has helped make it so.

Enjoy the interview. And see the movie. Hannah opens in NYC on August 22. (Showtimes are here.) Rollout for the rest of the country is here.

***

On the eve of the theatrical debut of Joe Swanberg’s SXSW 2007 hit, “Hannah Takes the Stairs,” I wanted to check in with each of the film’s principal collaborators. The film has been documented as a successful collaboration between acclaimed film artists from around the nation, each one offering their own trademark influence on the final film. “Hannah Takes the Stairs” will open at the IFC Center in New York, on August 22, as well as be available on IFC VOD the same day. As part of an ongoing series you can find throughout the film blogosphere, here is an interview with “Hannah” composer and frequent Swanberg collaborator Kevin Bewersdorf:

Dentler: How did you first get connected to “Hannah Takes the Stairs?”

Bewersdorf: Joe and I had just been touring the festival circuit with our film “LOL” (set to come out on DVD August 28). During the festivals Joe kept talking about wanting to shoot a new movie in the summer, and I guess we both just sort of assumed I would be working on it. A month later I was somehow sleeping on the floor of an apartment in Chicago and hanging out with a bunch of great people. Like all the projects I’ve made with Joe, “Hannah” just sort of fell in to place.

Dentler: What do you remember most about the shoot in Chicago?

Bewersdorf: The whole thing was a gift from God. Every moment was happy. I do want to bring up one particular incident however: the moment that the Bujalski vs. Rohal feud began. This mock-feud has been mock-annoying everyone for a while now, and it is time for me to mock-bring-it-out-into-the-open. One day, when we were sitting around at the office location, Bujalski told Rohal that he looked like an actor that he couldn’t place of the name of. Everyone tried to guess the name of the actor as Andrew listed his filmography. Finally, Kent correctly guessed that the actor was Vincent Schiavelli (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus”). Rohal was extremely insulted. We consulted a picture of Schiavelli on imdb, and he looked like an gaunt and droopy troll, may he rest in peace. To counter the attack, Todd claimed that Andrew had a particularity to his countenance which made him appear as though he had Down’s Syndrome. Andrew was outrageously insulted. For the rest of the shoot the two maintained a mock rivalry over the incident. The rivalry has continued in public statements made by Rohal on various blogs (such as the “Bujalski Sex Tape” jab on Matt Dentler’s blog) although to this day Bujalski denies that the feud exists. I want to bring this out in the open so these two can finally make up, and put the feud behind them.

Dentler: How did the production process differ from your own other projects, or projects you’ve acted in before or since?

Bewersdorf: I’ve primarily worked with Joe in the past, so for me it was totally natural. None of the projects I’ve worked on since have been as stress-free as “Hannah.” There was no producer present in Chicago, so that removed any notion of authority or hierarchy in the production. There was extremely minimal equipment, basically no lights or gear, no schedule, no script, and no typical movie pageantry (Joe rarely says “action,” for example). It was just like hanging out, we were a perfectly balanced family unit from the start. Working on an indy film is almost always hell. Everyone is concerned with their own agenda, or worried about making their own reel look good, or restricted by an impossible schedule, or moaning about money problems. But, if everyone is willing to just let the movie happen, to enjoy the accidents and rock with the waves (while making sure to keep anyone with bad vibes away from the production) it can be so much fun. Usually people are a too concerned with their own success to have a good time.

Dentler: What are your thoughts on the issues of sex and relationships that come to the forefront of the film?

Bewersdorf: Many girls I’ve spoken with have despised the Hannah character. Usually it’s either because they resent that they are so much like her, frequently leaving trails of destroyed guys in their wakes, or because they have been pissed off by girls like Hannah in the past. Girls like Hannah are so awful and unhealthy to be around, and I’ve encountered them often. But I’ve never been able to hold their sporadic heartbreaking actions against them — they are young and confused and don’t know what they want, which everyone knows the feeling of.

Dentler: Ever been in a love triangle?

Bewersdorf: Yes. I was unknowingly involved a love triangle for months. The last side of the triangle wasn’t apparent until much later though, when someone else revealed their feelings. At that point it sort of dissolved in to a “love obtuse angle.” “Hannah” doesn’t technically involve a full love triangle though, unless the character Matt is secretly in love with the character Paul (Ed. Note: they’re co-workers and best friends, so it counts).

Dentler: Did you ever work with “the stairs?” Any thoughts on why they didn’t make the cut?

Bewersdorf: There was one scene with the stairs, a nude scene, but Kent was worried that his balls looked too fat so Joe cut that out.

DIY Projection Screens

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

The DIY Guerrilla Drive-In post a few days ago was a bit of a hit (i.e., sites linked to it, etc.) so in my ceaseless (shameless?) efforts to give the people what they want, here are two links to related DIY projects:


DIY Projector Screen

DIY Rear Projection Screen